cornelia read
cornelia read
cornelia read

Pre-Published, With All the Joyous/Angsty Trimmings

Courtesy of Sarah Weinman's fabulous blog

I tried writing a post this morning about my first novel getting picked up by Mysterious Press in February. Started out shooting for funny and maybe even slightly insightful, tone-wise, but it quickly devolved into a detailed rehashing of this long thing I wrote in college about how the bipolar violin prodigy called from a bar payphone in Spanish Harlem to see if he could leave his gym bag in my dorm room while hustling to offload eightballs of coke amongst my fellow students.

The weirdest part was that I didn't know him. He'd dropped out before my freshman year, and to this day I have no idea why he pitched the idea to me. Surprisingly sweet guy, it turned out. I wept when I heard he'd been killed not long after, because I really believed he might turn things around if he could manage to catch just the tiniest break.

I got well into this, a good five paragraphs, before realizing that it wasn't at all what I meant to post about. In fact it looked really stupid when I read it over, and here I was swanning around on the parquet floors of someone else's blog, with all the potential inherent in Sarah's bully pulpit at my disposal, so I didn't want to look like a total dipshit.

But now that I've got some links up and everything, I'd like to take another shot at the intention I started out with, which was saying how strange it is to be here guest-blogging at all. How surprising, because even though I've been messing around with writing for such a long time I've got two manuscripts in my file cabinet so old they're actually typed, a few years ago I felt pretty much at peace with the knowledge I wouldn't ever finish a novel.

I'd done a lot of good stuff instead, like getting married and writing articles and having twins and outliving the violin guy, among others, so it was okay despite being kind of sad, the way fiction didn't glitter so much for me any more, as a compulsion.

In fact the only times I really got bummed about it were when I read about Ann Patchett doing so well, since she was in my class and to be honest I was a little fonder of the violin guy even then. Lucy Grealey was another one, but she was great and had a ton of shit to deal with besides, so I didn't begrudge her any success, not even getting into Iowa and teaching at Harvard and writing such a great memoir.

And then despite being so evolved and at peace with my un-novelist self and all that, or maybe because of it, I wrote a book, and somebody actually bought the damn thing. The existence of a complete novel on my hard drive still surprises the hell out of me on a daily basis, and I'm not exactly sure how it happened. It's like suddenly remembering I built a cabin in Alaska all by myself, in between buying milk and frozen enchiladas and catching up on the laundry. It is very very cool.

It is also scary, in the same way that having to actually live in a cabin in Alaska that I built all by myself probably would be, especially because I still have to do the laundry and defrost enchiladas and everything.

The amazing upside part is that I've met these incredible people along the way, and had wonderful things happen, like Sarah asking if I'd like to blog for a couple of days while she's away. So mostly I'm in that pre-published bliss state, where everything about the book itself is still all potential I haven't screwed up, and I think of my editor Kristen Weber as this shining distant goddess, like how Winston Churchill thought of his mother when he was little.

The downside is that I still don't want to look like a total dipshit, and getting published is fraught with major dipshit-looking-opportunity peril at every turn.